In a normal year, this is not the time for “Front Office Disarray” (FOD) in sports. This is the time of year when baseball teams are in Spring Training and the biggest front office issue of the immediate term is how to goose up season ticket sales before Opening Day. NBA teams are either fighting for playoff spots or playoff seeding or they are tanking. NFL teams are set for free agency and getting set for the draft. NHL teams are making their runs to the playoffs.
For some reason, this is not a normal year. It is too far removed from New Year’s to blame it on a hangover; it does not make sense to link it to political wrangling all over the country because that happens all the time; it has lasted too long to be caused by a single phase of the moon; if you want to try to connect it with the melting of the polar ice caps, have at it. The fact is that two franchises see their Front Offices in a great state of disarray.
Let me start with the one that is in my backyard – – the Washington Redskins. They are no strangers to FOD; Danny Boy Snyder has owned the team for almost two decades now and it has only been in the last couple years that there has been a situation where FOD has been quiescent. I am sure you have read or heard about the disappearing act that Scot McCloughan – merely the team’s GM – has pulled over the last several weeks. He has been away from the media; he was not at the NFL Combine; there was even one report/speculation that his acknowledged alcohol problem had resurfaced. I have no information on what is going on here but McCloughan’s absence and the smarmy spin-doctored info provided by team president, Bruce Allen, demonstrates that the Skins’ Front Office is not running smoothly.
Here is my hypothesis. I have no evidence other than having watched how this franchise has functioned for the last two decades for this hypothesis.
- Scot McCloughan has been with the team for 2 years and in those 2 years the team has improved significantly making the playoffs in 2015 and missing out on the playoffs in Week 17 last year. Many if not most observers have credited McCloughan with revamping the roster allowing the team to succeed.
- Over the past two decades, Danny Boy Snyder has cultivated an image that says he will “do anything to win”. Indeed, he has spent money – often foolishly – and made splashy hirings and firings. However, I believe that he wants something even more than he “wants to win”. I believe that he wants to win AND he wants everyone to recognize that he – Danny Boy – is the reason that the team is winning.
In my hypothesis, Scot McCloughan got too much of the credit for the Skins’ turnaround over the past two seasons and is now being eased to the side such that his exit – stage right – will appear to be a normal progression of things. Nevertheless, the Skins are now in free agent season without their GM and prepping for the NFL Draft without the guy who oversaw all the scouting and ranking during the last college football season. Front Office Disarray …
Now take yourself about 3000 miles WSW of Washington to sunny Los Angeles and contemplate the state of the LA Lakers. The team has consistently been one of the bluebloods of the NBA going all the way back to its time in Minneapolis with George Mikan, Slater Martin and Whitey Skoog. In the past several years, the Lakers have been less than normally successful on the floor and far more dysfunctional than usual in the Front Office. Any attempt to rewind all that has gone on in terms of the intrigues and squabbles in that Front Office would take up more Internet bytes than it is worth. Suffice it to say that the calmest period in recent times had the Lakers’ coach – Phil Jackson – dating the owner’s daughter – Jeanie Buss – while Jeanie Buss and her brother Jim Buss were feuding. Those were the good times in the Front Office…
When longtime Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss died, Jeannie Buss took over the team and her brother, Jim, was the guy in charge of basketball operations. That did not work out even a little bit and after lots of public squabbling Jeanie fired Jim – and also team GM Mitch Kupchak who seemed to take sides with Jim in the family feud. In his place, Jeanie hired Magic Johnson as the major domo of the Lakers in all things basketball who then hired Rob Pelinka to be the Lakers’ GM. Let us take a look at the triumvirate in charge here:
- Jeanie Buss gets high marks when it comes to running the franchise as a business enterprise. However, she is also associated with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension on his contract worth more than $50M at the end of Bryant’s career when he was well beyond being worth even half that amount.
- Rob Pelinka’s résumé for a GM job in the NBA seems awfully thin to me. He is a former college player; he is an attorney; he has represented several NBA players as an agent; most importantly, he was Kobe Bryant’s agent. I do not believe he has ever held any position for any team in the NBA prior to his hiring as the Lakers’ GM.
- Magic Johnson is a Hall of Fame player and a highly successful entrepreneur. This will be his first venture into running an NBA franchise. In the past, great players have done very well in the area of running a franchise; Jerry West is Exhibit A; Larry Bird is Exhibit B; Danny Ainge was not nearly as great a player as Magic or West or Bird, but he too has been successful at directing a franchise. At the same time, Michael Jordan was less than successful as the boss of the Wizards; Phil Jackson has hardly distinguished himself running the Knicks’ franchise; Elgin Baylor was hugely unsuccessful as the GM of the Clippers; and let’s not even discuss the post-basketball accomplishments of Isiah Thomas.
The bottom line here is that the Lakers are in the midst ofand on the bridge steering the ship through the storm are 3 rookies. Adding to the maelstrom are legal actions taken by Jim Buss and one of his brothers against Jeanie and the Lakers that deal with issues too subtle for me to understand easily. It is a mess and it is not likely to be cleaned up in a brief time.
Finally, here is a quiz question posed by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“La La Land” is a movie about:
a) a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love.
b) Twins fans dreaming of winning this year’s World Series.
c) Johnny Manziel thinking he has an NFL future.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………